Last month marked one-year since my arrival to Peru. I’ve learned a lot over these past 12 months, and I’d like to take some time to share some of these valuable lessons and takeaways…
The past year has taught me how to be more “domestic”.
Since I no longer have the luxury of having a washing machine and dryer at my disposal, I’ve had to learn how hand wash clothes, a tedious process which, depending on how much you have to wash, could take hours. I’ve learned how to bake things from scratch, such as bread cake, how to pull chicken, and how to make ceviche. I’ve also learned how to be more “handy” and assemble things on my own.
Giant cockroaches, spiders, and other various insects no longer faze me, nor does taking ice cold showers, not having running water, having to bring my own toilet paper and soap to the bathroom, hitching a ride with a random combi driver, or giving an unexpected speech in front of hundreds of people. All of these, which may have really irked my nerves in the past, are pretty much normal these days.
This past year has taught me to have more patience.
I quickly learned that things often do not happen as planned. Counterparts do not show up to meetings, or arrive “a la hora Peruana” (Peruvian time), sometimes hours late. Classes are cancelled last minute after you spend all night preparing, and when you do have class, the technology fails you and you are back to using just papelote and plumones (Paper and marker). Perhaps you come into your office at the municipality to work on your community diagnostic, to find that someone has taken over your desk or that you no longer have an office at all. Or when you need to go into the city to buy groceries but you must first wait two hours for the car to fill up and leave, then another hour and a half traveling to the city. The list goes on, and although each one of these things was incredibly frustrating at first, they have taught me to have a great deal of patience and I no longer find myself consumed my by stress, wanting to scream and pull out my hair when these things happen….well, maybe once in a while 😉
This past year has taught me to be more grateful and appreciative.
I am grateful…
I can’t even begin to express how happy it makes me when I go into a public bathroom and there is soap and toilet paper, or when I am able have a hot shower, it feels like Christmas morning! When the combi leaves right away and I don’t have to wait for hours under the hot sun, I feel like that little girl back in elementary school who’s just gotten away with releasing caterpillars all over her teacher’s desk. Or that moment when I walk down to the complejo (soccer field) to go running and find that the field is completely empty, and I don’t have to dodge dozens of people and flying soccer balls, it’s exhilarating. When I’m able to travel to the city for that occasional gym trip or horseback ride, I am overcome with excitement as I try to hold back cries of joy like when I was in second grade and was given a black Labrador puppy for my eighth birthday. I’m filled with an indescribable happiness and appreciate every second of it. When my students literally beg me to teach them English after school, I never cease to be impressed or to appreciate their enthusiasm for learning. For this I am forever grateful and appreciative.
The past year has taught me to make sacrifices.
I gave up a lot by deciding to leave my home, friends, and family for 27 months. I’ve missed my nephew’s first and second birthday, one of my best friend’s weddings, the birth of my good friend’s daughter, regular gym visits, privacy, living independently, having my own bathroom, having mail sent to the house, driving, supermarkets, consistent internet, spending time with friends and family, and all of the things that were my life in the U.S.
It was not an easy task leaving all the comforts of the US behind, but try to focus on the fact that these commodities are indeed luxury, which many people do without their entire lives. Why couldn’t I do the same? After all it’s only temporary.
This past year in Peru has taught me many things… I have learned how to be more independent, patient, appreciative, and self-sacrificing. I’ve learned to see the bigger picture and to appreciate the little things in life. These past 12 months have taught me many valuable lessons and I can’t wait to see what else I will learn in the next 12 to come.